"Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Illustrated by Alex Maleev
2014, 24 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on December 3rd, 2014
Although Hellboy has been around for twenty years, we don't know his entire life story. We know every last thing that's ever happened to characters like Spider-Man and the pre-New 52 versions of Batman or Superman. Hellboy has this decades long gap in his history. We know he came to our plane of existence during World War II, kicked some ass for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, and then died killing a literal dragon to save the world, but we don't know what happened in between. How did he become this grizzled slugger capable of punching out demons with his huge, rock-like fist? The new series, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D., has started to fill in some of those holes, beginning with the character's first field mission.
Up until this point (1952), Hellboy has lived at the Bureau, rarely leaving. We've seen some adventures with him as a child, most recently in The Midnight Circus. Now he's basically a teenager or in his early twenties, but he lacks the life experiences that a human of that age would have. Professor Bruttenholm decides to send him out to the field with a handful of agents to investigate some strange occurrences in a Brazilian village.
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There's an immediate sense of excitement and adventure in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. that isn't present in earlier books. That's not to say that earlier Mignolaverse comics aren't exciting. They tend to have this feeling of dread, like something bad is going to happen at any moment (and it usually does). There is this look in Hellboy's eyes throughout this issue as he's finally getting to participate in all the escapades that he's only read about until now. It's like his parents just let him take the family car out for a big date. Sure, he's inexperienced and he's not a true agent yet, but he's got the motivation to do whatever it takes.
The scares are somewhat limited with this issue. The bulk of it is spent with the initial setup of the mission to Brazil with Hellboy coming along. There are flashes back to earlier days, specifically Bruttenholm's first meeting with Big Red. You can really feel that patriarch quality coming from the professor. He overrides his own rule about non-agents in the field to get Hellboy out there because it's what's best for the boy and he can handle himself, but there's still a sense of doubt around him. It's like he's the mama bird watching the baby leave the nest for the first time.
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All of this is beautifully rendered by Alex Maleev. He's a talented artist to begin with, but his work really shines through on Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. Creator Mike Mignola has a signature style that has been mimicked for years on these books. Maleev takes it in a different direction that is uniquely his own. There's a realism at work here with darkness lurking just around the bend, capturing a glimmer of that sensation of foreboding that tends to come from Hellboy titles.
The title character hasn't yet created that gruff exterior that would shroud him in his adult years. Instead, he's always depicted with a slight grin on his face, showing the excitement of being out in the field for the first time. He's not overtly happy or jumping for joy, but it's a subtle reminder that he's still young and naïve to the troubles of the outside world.
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. is a welcome addition to the Mignolaverse, beginning the story of Big Red's first field mission. Most of it is spent setting the stage, moving all the characters into place, but it promises a big payoff that I'm definitely looking forward to.